Nanowrimo beat me – why this ‘failure’ has inspired me even more to finish my novel.

I have conceded. Nanowrimo (writing 50,000 words of a novel in one month) has beat me this year. That’s okay though, I came to this conclusion about a week ago; I’m flying my white flag: I surrender.

Achieving a total of around 20,000 words, I have basically rewrote the same amount as my thesis (that took me 8 months). Probably the hardest thing I have ever done. I didn’t count any other words towards my Nanowrimo other than words for my novel – so this blog post (or the many others I have written) plus my poetry, music reviews, investigative journalism pieces – nothing else counted towards nano other than my novel text.

Fiction has never really been one of my strong points, but I figure that there was no better time to start than now – I just love to write – and to get better at writing, you just have to write. I know I’m probably better at critical pieces and poetry, but i just want to keep writing to be the absolute best that I can be.

I have to say that I need to be a little bit proud of this achievement of 20,000 words but I also have to learn from it as a perfect failure.

Because life is basically about how you pick yourself up after you fail. It is all about hitting rock bottom, realising what’s important, constantly reassessing and constantly trying to be better; we have one life – stagnation isn’t an option for me.

Working 40+ hours every week in a pretty crazy (but interesting job), performing in poetry slams, writing pretty much constantly and barely switching off, even writing a few thousand words to start with is better than nothing. I think the most valuable thing about nanowrimo is that it has taught me so much about how I work; failing to make the 50,000 words has also made me reassess how I’m spending my time and what I want to achieve next, you always need to be setting goals and thinking about what is next, for me this is including:

  • Enrolling in a short summer course at Oxford University (and finding some way to pay for it)
  • Finishing my novel (I would say I want to aim for 50,000 words in total).
  • Continuing with my poetry slams
  • Writing reviews and developing my blog
  • Writing more travel blogs
  • Writing more generally
  • Finally getting around to publishing my thesis from last year (need to get onto this one).

So 20,000, you’re a start.

You’ve made me take a good hard look at myself and what I want to achieve, I’m never truly content and to be honest, I don’t want to be; I will always be striving to be more and do better than yesterday.

I’m not sure that I am going to write as intensely on my novel over the coming months, but my aim is to have something ready for publishing (or at least proper intensive editing) by mid next year (along with my list of to do’s above).

Decided to upload a 1500 word extract from the novel below as well – please note – this is *very* unedited as the whole aim of nanowrimo is to get words down onto the page rather than write a bestseller in one go; but of course I am open to criticisms!

Life is about how you continue on after you fail – what keeps us going in the harder times of our lives is what truly makes us who we are. 

Thanks for reading – enjoy the excerpt – and I’m totally glad that I failed Nanowrimo 2015.



If a girl approaches you so quietly you can barely feel the breeze she leaves as she struts past you, do not laugh at her strength. 

Know that she is a tsunami, capable of things no one has noticed quite yet, but when she lands, she will have power that everyone remembers and very few get to see.

She woke up abruptly, must have been more ten hours later and reached instinctively for the blade that she kept hidden under the pillow, remembering only afterwards that this was not home.

After six months it was amazing the habit remained. She grabbed instead the knife she kept hidden in one of her thick leather boots and sat up slowly, scanning the room for the source of the sound that woke her. Nothing. It was hard to take the relative protection of the safe house for granted after months of paranoia. Even here she was not safe, only safer.

She leaped out of bed and spun, landing silently on all fours, and peered under the bed. Still nothing. She sheathed the weapon, relaxing only slightly. Satisfied, she left the bedroom and began gathering supplies from the kitchen, everything she could carry. There would be no returning here. They’d definitely catch up sooner rather than later.

When she left the small town was still bathed in shadow, though she could see the sun between the mountains like a child peeking through their fingers in a game of hide and seek. It rose reluctantly, probably as afraid of what its light would reveal as she was.

The streets felt strangely empty, though she knew there were other survivors here. She tried aimlessly to search for mobile phone reception to get in contact with someone – battery life lasts for a long time when there was no reception, she figured out. Her fingers instinctively typed in ‘Finn’ but then she hesitated again, remembering what had happened to him. But she couldn’t waste her time thinking about that now. It always flickered through her mind though. She wished that she hadn’t left hide behind, but really, what choice did she have?

She didn’t really have anyone left, or at least anyone that she could trust. Because proper communications had been down for longer than she could remember the last time that she had a conversation with someone, or the last thing that she said to anyone just seemed now like a distant memory.

Will she just disappear with a vision of a tomorrow that she will never have again? Was what she was doing before the outbreak so bad, but maybe, she though, put, maybe this was actually better. I was watching my life go by, wasting in on I’ll opportunities and not really taking advantage of each day that I actually had, I should have written a book, I should have travelled the world, now that I can’t do those things, it just seems like I have wasted so much time. And all I have left is this notebook.

Anyway, no time to contemplate over my life now, she thought, as she continued to move through the shadows under the cover of darkness hoping not to be spotted by anyone.

Survivors around here could be as dangerous as her pursuers, and he had no wish for company.  She set a brisk pace, every sense alert, slipping silently through the shadows after months of practice. She wouldn’t escape the town before they came, but if he found the right spot…there!

The town’s square was a cement box, accessible only at two points between buildings. She set up there, knowing she had only minutes to prepare. She could hear their distant moans, the stumbling shuffle of feet. She could smell the faint odour of decay which was usually the first warning that they were near. Being out here for a few months now had taught her a thing or two. Spotting an overturned cart, she found six bales of hay which had miraculously been spared by the local wildlife.

Hands shaking – they were getting closer again – she spread it as thickly as she could across the square and doused as much as she could with a new bottle of lighter fluid she had confiscated from the safe house.

She set a small radio – another item pilfered from the safe house—in the centre, volume as loud as it would go, and hit play. High-pitch techno dance music whine blared through the speakers, and she scowled at the previous owners’ bad taste. How was she supposed to kick zombie ass with that in the background?

There was nothing for it, anyhow. They’d almost reached the square by the time she finished, and their moans sounded almost excited when they heard the radio. At least they weren’t running the other way. That, at least, was a sure sign these creatures were no longer human.

This was something that made her think, what if she was to see Finn, I mean surely, he was in hospital when the outbreak occurred so there’s no way that he could have potential turned into one of these things, right?

She hastily climbed up the boxes she’d piled next to a short, squat warehouse and vaulted himself onto the roof. They came slowly, eyes straight ahead, jaws slack, arms reaching forward. Many were unable to walk due to either decomposition or severed limbs; those pulled themselves forward with hands, fingers, even teeth. The smell overcome the starry night air, reeking as they edged closer and closer.

As soon as they were in range, she started to shoot. She wasn’t the best aim in the world, always being quite subpar at first person shooter video games, she was quite adept in the old RPG, so she thought that at least she’s got the character development and surviving weird and wonderful situations thing down. Hours and hours spent playing Left for Dead will not be in vein.

Though their fearlessness was a severe disadvantage in most battles, in this situation it worked to her advantage. They never tried to run or hide from the barrage, they never retreated.

They would keep coming as long as the brain was intact, unable to comprehend the threat, or maybe uncaring. Either way, she aimed carefully, as good as she could, wasting not a single bullet. She was quite impressed with herself. If only my brother could see me now, I would have totally beat him in Call of Duty, she thought.

She stopped at noon to eat and calm her nerves, as much as possible. Zombies could not climb, so she would be safe for the time being. And the break would give the slowest ghouls time to catch up. She would eliminate as many as possible.

The radio had long since been destroyed, but they knew he was there.  She emptied thousands of rounds into the chaos below, and they kept coming, climbing over the bodies of the fallen. By the time she ran out of ammo the sun was retreating, and she sighed in relief. There were still a couple hundred ghouls in the square, but no reinforcements arrived. She fired his last shot into the hay on the far side of the square, where the bodies were thinner, and the square exploded in eager red flame. The fire seemed as excited to eat the undead flesh as the zombies were to eat her. It seemed fitting.

She sat and decided to watch the flames for a while. It was an eerie sight; the zombies seemed not to notice the fire even as it destroyed them. She tried not to think of who they were before; those people were long gone, their consciousness replaced by mindless hunger for anything living. Hopefully.

Darkness came like a thief, pilfering the sun’s rays one by one. As night plucked the last ray from the horizon, she leaped silently from rooftop to rooftop, moving like a shadow in the darkness, making her way out of town to somewhere that might potentially be safe.

When she stopped occasionally she was reminded about where she was, about what had been happening and all of the things she used to hold in such high regard as being important, now in the grand scheme of things didn’t actually seem that important as well. Although the she was plagued by loss, the loneliness was often the most comforting thing for her. Life just has this funny way of making us all feel like we are less alone, because at the end of the day, all that is ever left, regardless or not of whether the world is plagued with zombies or not, all that is left are empty rooms.

She would travel through the night, arriving at the destination by morning. She smiled softly to herself. One more day.




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s